Austric languages

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East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Madagascar
Linguistic classificationproposed language family
Austric languages.png
Map of the Austric languages.

Austric[1] is a hypothesized grouping of languages primarily spoken in Southeast Asia and Pacific. It includes the Austronesian language family of Taiwan, the Malay Archipelago, Pacific Islands, and Madagascar, as well as the Austroasiatic language family of mainland Southeast Asia, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. A genetic relationship between these language families is seen as plausible but remains a hypothesis.[2]

Additionally, the Japonic languages are included by some linguists.[3][4][5]

Related proposals include Sino-Austronesian (Laurent Sagart) and Austro-Tai (Paul K. Benedict).[6]


The Austric superfamily was first proposed by the German missionary Wilhelm Schmidt in 1906. He showed phonological, morphological, and lexical evidence to support the existence of an Austric phylum consisting of Austroasiatic and Austronesian (in particular, Malayo-Polynesian). In 1942, Paul K. Benedict provisionally accepted the Austric hypothesis and extended it to include the Kra–Dai (Thai–Kadai) languages as an immediate sister branch to Austronesian, and further speculated on the possibility to include the Hmong–Mien (Miao–Yao) languages as well.[7] However, he later abandoned and vocally rejected the Austric proposal in favor of an extended version of the Austro-Tai hypothesis.[8]

Despite the tenuous lexical evidence, the relationship of Austronesian with Austroasiatic still has proponents to this day, mostly on morphological grounds. Some believe that recently discovered morphological similarities between Nicobarese and Austronesian constitute solid proof of a genetic relationship. Other researchers are still searching for the missing lexical link between Austronesian and Austroasiatic or Kra–Dai. Reid (2005) summarizes the present state of the Austric hypothesis.

A 2015 analysis using the Automated Similarity Judgment Program (ASJP) did not support the Austric hypothesis. In this analysis, the supposed "core" components of Austric were assigned to two separate, unrelated clades: Austro-Tai and Austroasiatic-Japonic.[9] Note however that ASJP is not widely accepted among historical linguists as an adequate method to establish or evaluate relationships between language families.[10]

Classification schemes[edit]

The following classification scheme,[citation needed] is the most commonly accepted one. Hmong–Mien languages are occasionally included, but are often rejected from the Austric superfamily.


 Hmong–Mien  (?)





Sergei Starostin, however, splits Austric into two main branches. The Austric branch would be considered to be most closely related to his Dené–Caucasian, forming a Dene-Daic super-family:[11]








See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Current State of Linguistic Research on the Relatedness of the Language Families of East and Southeast Asia - Hawaii linguistic conference
  3. ^ Schmidt, Wilhelm (1930). ""Die Beziehungen der austrischen Sprachen zum Japanischen", 'The connections of the Austric languages to Japanese'". Wiener Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik. 1: 239–51.
  4. ^ Benedict, Paul K. (1990). Japanese/Austro-Tai. Karoma. ISBN 9780897200783.
  5. ^ Driem, George van (2001). Handbuch Der Orientalistik. BRILL. ISBN 9004120629.
  6. ^ Solnit, David B. (1992). "Japanese/Austro-Tai By Paul K. Benedict (review)". Language. 68 (1): 188–196. doi:10.1353/lan.1992.0061. ISSN 1535-0665.
  7. ^ Benedict, Paul K. (1942). "Thai, Kadai, and Indonesian: A New Alignment in Southeastern Asia". American Anthropologist. 4 (44): 576–601.
  8. ^ Benedict, Paul K. (1991). "Austric: An 'Extinct' Proto-language". In Davidson, Jeremy H. C. S. (ed.). Austroasiatic Languages: Essays in Honour of H. L. Shorto. London: School of Oriental and African Studies. p. 7–11.
  9. ^ Jäger, Gerhard. "Support for linguistic macrofamilies from weighted sequence alignment". PNAS. 112 (41): 12752–12757. doi:10.1073/pnas.1500331112. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  10. ^ Cf. comments by Adelaar, Blust and Campbell in Holman, Eric W., et al. (2011) "Automated Dating of the World’s Language Families Based on Lexical Similarity." Current Anthropology, vol. 52, no. 6, pp. 841–875.
  11. ^ van Driem, George (2005). "Sino-Austronesian vs. Sino-Caucasian, Sino-Bodic vs. Sino-Tibetan, and Tibeto-Burman as default theory" (PDF). In Yadava, Yogendra P. (ed.). Contemporary Issues in Nepalese Linguistics. Linguistic Society of Nepal. pp. 285–338. ISBN 978-99946-57-69-8. (see page 309)

Further reading[edit]

  • Benedict, Paul K. 1976. Austro-Thai and Austroasiatic. In: Philip N. Jenner, Laurence C. Thompson, and Stanley Starosta, eds., Austroasiatic Studies, Part I, pp. 1–36. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
  • Blazhek, Vaclav. 2000. Comments on Hayes "The Austric Denti-alveolar Sibilants". Mother Tongue V:15-17.
  • Blevins, Juliette (2007). "A Long Lost Sister of Proto-Austronesian? Proto-Ongan, Mother of Jarawa and Onge of the Andaman Islands". Oceanic Linguistics 46 (1): 154–198.
  • Blust, Robert. 1996. Beyond the Austronesian homeland: The Austric hypothesis and its implications for archaeology. In: Prehistoric Settlement of the Pacific, ed. by Ward H.Goodenough, ISBN 978-0-87169-865-0 DIANE Publishing Co, Collingdale PA, 1996, pp. 117–137. (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 86.5. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society).
  • Blust, Robert. 2000. Comments on Hayes, "The Austric Denti-alveolar Sibilants". Mother Tongue V:19-21.
  • Diffloth, Gerard F. 1989. What Happened to Austric? Mon–Khmer Studies XVI-XVII:1-9.
  • Diffloth, Gerard. 1994. The lexical evidence for Austric so far. Oceanic Linguistics 33(2):309-321.
  • Fleming, Hal. 2000. LaVaughn Hayes and Robert Blust Discuss Austric. Mother Tongue V:29-32.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 1992. On the Track of Austric, Part I: Introduction. Mon–Khmer Studies XXI:143-77.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 1997. On the Track of Austric, Part II: Consonant Mutation in Early Austroasiatic. Mon–Khmer Studies XXVII:13-41.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 1999. On the Track of Austric, Part III: Basic Vocabulary Correspondence. Mon–Khmer Studies XXIX:1-34.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 2000. The Austric Denti-alveolar Sibilants. Mother Tongue V:1-12.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 2000. Response to Blazhek's Comments. Mother Tongue V:33-4.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 2000. Response to Blust's Comments. Mother Tongue V:35-7.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 2000. Response to Fleming's Comments. Mother Tongue V:39-40.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 2001. On the Origin of Affricates in Austric. Mother Tongue VI:95-117.
  • Hayes, La Vaughn H. 2001. Response to Sidwell. Mother Tongue VI:123-7.
  • Larish, Michael D. 2006. Possible Proto-Asian Archaic Residue and the Statigraphy of Diffusional Cumulation in Austro-Asian Languages. Paper presented at the Tenth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, 17–20 January 2006, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.
  • Reid, Lawrence A. 1994. Morphological evidence for Austric. Oceanic Linguistics 33(2):323-344.
  • Reid, Lawrence A. 1996. The current state of linguistic research on the relatedness of the language families of East and Southeast Asia. In: Ian C. Glover and Peter Bellwood, editorial co-ordinators, Indo-Pacific Prehistory: The Chiang Mai Papers, Volume 2, pp . 87-91. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 15. Canberra: Australian National University.
  • Reid, Lawrence A. 1999. New linguistic evidence for the Austric hypothesis. In Selected Papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, ed. by Elizabeth Zeitoun and Paul Jen-kuei Li, pp. 5–30. Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  • Reid, Lawrence A. 2005. The current status of Austric: A review and evaluation of the lexical and morphosyntactic evidence. In The peopling of East Asia: putting together archaeology, linguistics and genetics, ed. by Laurent Sagart, Roger Blench and Alicia Sanchez-Mazas. London: Routledge Curzon.
  • Schmidt, Wilhelm. 1906. Die Mon–Khmer-Völker, ein Bindeglied zwischen Völkern Zentralasiens und Austronesiens [The Mon–Khmer Peoples, a Link between the Peoples of Central Asia and Austronesia]. Archiv für Anthropologie, Braunschweig, new series, 5:59-109.
  • Schmidt, Wilhelm. 1930. Die Beziehungen der austrischen Sprachen zum Japanischen [The Connections of the Austric Languages to Japanese]. Wien Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik 1:239-51.
  • Shorto, H. L. 1976. In Defense of Austric. Computational Analyses of Asian and African Languages 6:95-104.
  • Sidwell, Paul. 2001. Comments on La Vaughn H. Hayes' "On the Origin of Affricates in Austric". Mother Tongue VI:119-121.
  • Van Driem, George. 2000. Four Austric Theories. Mother Tongue V:23-27.

External links[edit]